Biking to break the stigma of dementia
Once you’re diagnosed with dementia, you can no longer enjoy life. Greg Kelly disagrees.
He was diagnosed with early onset dementia at 59 and now he’s challenging the stigma and raising awareness of the disease which affects more than 60,000 people in New Zealand.
He’s doing this by riding a Harley Davidson across Aotearoa, Australia and the US.
Greg, otherwise known as Kell, arrived in New Zealand just in time for World Alzheimer’s Awareness Month.
He rode into Napier last Wednesday morning and attended a lunch at Dementia Hawke’s Bay in Napier, where he made a 30-minute presentation to staff and club members, and showed a 10-minute documentary on his trip.
Called Kell’s Ride For a Cure, by Elizabeth McLeish, it was recently chosen as one of two winners at the Sydney Lift Off Festival and was screened at the London Lift Off Festival. Elizabeth is is also creating a feature-length documentary which will cover his New Zealand and American trips as well.
“I want to put a spotlight on this disease and raise awareness of younger onset dementia because this is not a disease just for the very old,” Greg says. “There are people as young as 29 with it and it is the second highest killer in Australia, and the third highest in the USA and New Zealand.”
Although dementia is often thought to be an older person’s disease, about five per cent of people with it are under the age of 65 when their symptoms begin to emerge.
“I was diagnosed with onset dementia in January 2016 at the age of 59. They told me I have had it for a number of years but was misdiagnosed with having depression back as far as 2009, as happens so many times with this disease.”
Since dementia is much less common in younger people, there are often challenges in getting a diagnosis, with GPs more likely to pin symptoms to conditions like depression or anxiety.
Greg’s ride hopes to change this norm, to ensure that more people are aware of how younger onset dementia can affect people and to help them get a diagnosis, along with strong support.
He departed for Wellington Friday morning and was be escorted into the capital by city’s Harley’s Owners Group (HOGS).
Greg Kelly was diagnosed with early onset dementia and is raising awareness of the disease by riding a Harley Davidson across Aotearoa, Australia and the US.